Monday, January 31, 2011

"The Internationale"?

That was the title to an e-mail that came to me a few days ago, from someone who thrills as I do to the overthrow of an undemocratic regime. But the course of rebellion and revolution since the 1970s makes me doubt that what will emerge from the ashes of the Mubarak regime is anything like democratic socialism.And that says a lot about the agonies of the left in the 21st century.

Once upon a time, when some people assumed that history had a clear direction and an obvious endpoint, it was safe (if not entirely discerning) to assume that the end point of human progress would be socialism. Those days are over. And the disappointing trajectories of Central and Eastern European Societies since the toppling of communism, the Iranian revolution, and China since Tiananmen are forceful reminders that rising up does not always lead to a better future.

In their calls for democracy and economic justice, the demonstrators in Cairo are demanding the kinds of things that one expects from the left. Whether something like a "left" will emerge out of this is not clear. I hope so, but the recent course of history doesn't make me optimistic.

Mubarak's regime rests on sand, and the policy makers in the USA and Israel who put their faith in Mubarak were sorely mistaken. Change is a constant, even if the direction of change is hard to predict and even harder to control.

Here's hoping that the people of Egypt get justice, democracy, peace and prosperity.